Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Which Jets flew under the radar in 2022?
EA: Bryce Huff. On the surface, the numbers aren't staggering. Appearing in 14 games, Huff recorded career highs in sacks (3.5) and QB hits (10). But that production came in 191 defensive snaps. His average of a QB hit every 19.1 defensive snaps was tops on one of the NFL's best defenses. Among edge defenders, Pro Football Focus ranked Huff ninth in the NFL with a pass rush grade of 88. Huff, who racked up 18 sacks and 39.5 TFL at Memphis, has collected 7 sacks in his 37 games with the Jets from 2020-22. In sub situations, he has exceptional burst and he is an absolute menace off the edge.
EG: Alijah Vera-Tucker. Vera-Tucker was one of the best players on the Green & White when he played this past season, let alone on the offensive line. It's not easy for any lineman to switch positions, especially midseason and Vera-Tucker started at three positions in as many weeks. He started the season at right guard after transitioning from left guard as a rookie in 2021. The No. 14 overall pick out of USC in 2021 kicked out to left tackle in Week 4 at Pittsburgh before swapping to right tackle in Week 5 against the Dolphins. AVT started three games on the right side before his season ended with a torn triceps tendon sustained at Denver in Week 7. Vera-Tucker and the Green & White gained 819 rushing yards in the seven games he played. The offense ran for 867 yards over its final 10 games without the second-year lineman.
RL: I sense there wasn't an appreciation for the Jets' tight ends after Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah brought their combined 110 catches from '21 with them to the Green & White as unrestricted free agents a year ago and finished with 79 grabs in the just-concluded season. Yet Conklin, as the lead pass-catcher at the position, had a pretty good season. His 58 receptions were second on the Jets behind only superb rookie WR Garrett Wilson. And that number was the most by a Jets TE in more than a decade, or since Dustin Keller racked up 65 catches in 2011. Conk's 16 third-down conversions were also second behind Wilson, and that includes his 2 of 2 in third-down pickups on quasi-QB piledrivers. With a new OC coming to town soon and Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert picking up speed, I'd like to see a continued rise in Conklin's and the tight ends' pass-catching profiles in '23, especially in the red zone, where Jets like Keller, Anthony Becht and Mickey Shuler excelled, Shuler with 13 RZ catches for TDs in 1984-85 combined
CH: D.J. Reed. Reed played 99.8% of the snaps, missing only 1, and led the defensive unit in playing time. Reed also registered career highs with 12 pass defenses and 80 tackles. When targeted, Reed limited his opponents' reception percentage to just 54.4% which was the 4th best in the NFL, and his 79.6 coverage grade ranked 5th according to PFF. Even Pro Bowl rookie Sauce Gardner said he would have had an "average rookie season" if it were not for what Reed taught him. Year 5 was Reed's best yet, but I have a feeling there is a lot more in store for Year 6.
JP: With Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro DT Quinnen Williams clogging up the middle and experiencing a breakout season, DE Carl Lawson flew under the radar in 2022. Lawson produced a strong campaign after returning from a torn Achilles tendon he sustained during a Jets-Packers joint practice in August of 2021. Appearing in all 17 games, Lawson was second on the team in sacks (7.0) and QB hits (24) and third in tackles for loss (9). Additionally, Lawson registered the 8th most snaps on defense and the second most among defensive linemen. While the Jets had 11 defensive linemen take 150-plus snaps, Lawson stood out for a Jets' pass rush that produced the 7th-most sacks (45) and 6th-most pressures (160) league-wide.